In 2001, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler joined with Britney Spears to sing “Walk This Way” at halftime of the Super Bowl. Now the duo is reuniting — though not to perform.
Along with Ozzy Osbourne, Sting, and Dr. Dre, Tyler and Spears told the Department of Commerce Monday that songwriters, not copyright law, should determine who can remix or mash-up their music.
In the age of YouTube, remixes have become an art form unto themself. To foster creation in this area, the Patent Office’s July 2013 copyright review explored creating a compulsory license that would allow anyone to use a song to remix or sample for a set fee.
Tyler, who led the effort with the help of music industry lawyer Dina LaPolt, said such a legal structure would take away the artist’s power to determine how their music is used.
“Approval is by far the most important right that an artist possesses,” LaPolt wrote. “If an artist does not want his or her music used in a certain way, no amount of money will change his or her mind.”
Music artists are particularly concerned that their music could be aligned with a political or commercial message they do not support. For example, the Eagle’s Joe Walsh—who also sent a letter opposing a compulsory license—took issue with Illinois Republican Rep. Joe Walsh reworking the lyrics to his song “Lead the Way” during the Congressman’s 2010 campaign.
The task force’s official comment period ended on January 8, but the artists were granted special permission to submit their comments late.
Other issues explored in the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force’s “green paper” include updating the licensing structure for terrestrial radio and reviewing the first-sale doctrine that allows consumers to resell products.
Copyright laws are undergoing review in Congress as well, but meaningful legislation has not been introduced. The next step for the IPTF, which brings together the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will be preparing a formal recommendation for Congress, though a timeline has not been set.
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